As usual, I got a fair amount of reading time in December and completed eight interesting books.

My family and finished watching Poldark, a Masterpiece Theatre series based on a book series, in mid-December. We were enthralled, and to ease the withdrawal, I am now reading the books, starting with Ross Poldark by Winston Graham.

Book Cover for Poldark by Winston Graham. Most of the page is a closeup of actor Aidan Turner as the title character, a handsome man with dark eyes, dark hair, a scar on his cheek and stubble on his chin. Then the name of the series large in red, POLDARK, followed by the title and the author's name smaller in black.

This was a fine book but I found myself wondering how it came to be made into a series. I just was not overwhelmed by it. I am still going to read the whole series, though (spoiler: the second book is better!). In the meantime, let me recommend that you watch it. It’s the story of a young man who is returning to his native Cornwall after several years away fighting in the American Revolution, and how he deals with what he finds when his return (father dead, money gone, fiancee about to marry someone else).

Several years ago I read a number of books that were given to me after our house burned down. Some of the authors were new to me and I always meant to read more of their work. So I was excited to find Natchez Burning by Greg Iles at the library sale I mentioned in a recent post.

Book Cover for Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. Author's name in large white letters at the top of the page followed by the title in black. Background of grey clouds.

This is the first of a three-book series, including the two books following.

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

Book Cover for The Bone Tree by Greg Iles. Title in white at top with author's name much bigger below in black, over the silhouette of a tree in a swamp with a sunset.

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles

Book cover for Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles. Author's name in black at the top, with title in white below. Blue sky above dark twisted trees.

The protagonist of the series is Penn Cage, sometime lawyer, turned novelist, now Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi. His father, renowned and beloved physician Tom Cage, has been accused of murder. That’s the main plot thread, and the backstory goes all the way back to the 1950s, tracing the activities of a group of militant racists who make the KKK look tame. There’s intrigue, court room action, investigations, crusading journalists, and lots of very, very disturbing violence. These are long books in small print and I read all three in less than a week because I could not put them down.

The Crossing by Michael Connelly also came from the library book sale, and this was another author I learned about after our fire.

Book Cover for The Crossing by Michael Connelly. Author's name in black above title in red. Mostly yellow background with a railroad bridge.

I’ve read books about Connelly’s Mickey Haller, otherwise known as the Lincoln Lawyer because he works out of the back of his car rather than from an office. And I’ve read ones about Harry Bosch, his police detective with the envious solve rate. What makes this book especially fun is that it teams them up–Mickey wanting to save his client from a false accusation and Harry wanting to find out who really did the crime so justice can be done.

I know I have mentioned that I am a big Agatha Christie fan. Dame Agatha died fifty years ago and so it was very exciting to me to hear that there were twelve new short stories featuring Miss Marple, her gentle spinster sleuth from St. Mary Mead.

Book Cover for Marple. Title in the Center on a white banner surrounded by roses with leaves with the author of each short story printed thereon. Agatha in yellow at top of page, Christie in yellow at bottom. Roses are red, leaves are green, background is black.

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries is an anthology with stories from twelve celebrated writers, writing in the style of Agatha Christie, and succeeding to varying degrees. Best are the stories that bring back other familiar characters and locations and don’t attempt social relevance or revisionist history. I enjoyed them very much.

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill was a Christmas gift from my elder daughter. It’s the story of the Great Dragoning and its repercussions on one family. It’s also a story about secrets and repression and rather obviously feminism.

Book Cover for When Women were dragons by Kelly Barnhill. Title in white covers most of page with author's name much smaller below on a background of purple violets and leaves with dragon eyes and scales peeking through.

But it’s also a good story. The Great Dragoning refers to a day when many thousands of women turned into dragons and flew away, many after killing various men who you can be sure deserved it. I am dying for other people to read it so I have someone to discuss it with.

I decided to read Gay, Catholic, and American by Greg Bourke because I wanted to learn from an openly gay man who remains unapologetically Catholic, who is involved in his parish, who has sent two kids through parochial school.

Book cover for Gay, Catholic, and American by Greg Bourke. Striped blue and white with title and author's name above a picture of two men triumphantly holding hands.

Mr. Bourke was one of the plaintiffs in the case that led to the legalization of gay marriage. He often finds himself at odds with LGBTQ people when defending the Church and his faith.  And of course he also faces criticism from people within the Church. I read seeking understanding and compassion and found it very interesting, especially his interactions with Archbishop Kurtz who I know personally from when he was the Bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville. I appreciated how although they can never completely agree with one another, they maintain a friendly and supportive relationship.

That’s it for December. Up next will be my ten favorite reads from 2022. I’m linking this up with an Open Book. Click below to see what others are reading.

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